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Obama and Immigration

The Great Pretender Throws His Base a Bone

by MIKE WHITNEY

Barack Obama has the worst record on immigration of any president in US history. No one else comes close. In the last 3 and a half years, Obama has rounded up, detained and deported more than 1.2 million immigrants, roughly 400,000 per year. That’s more than double the number of deportations that took place under his predecessor, George W. Bush, in the same amount of time. Obama also launched the controversial Secure Communities program, which uses local police departments to help federal authorities collect fingerprints so that victims can be watched, harassed, detained, abused and deported more easily by the Gestapo thugs at Immigration and Customs Enforcement [ICE]. Obama intends to make the program mandatory by 2013.

Now, after nearly four years of terrorizing the immigrant community, Obama has softened his stance in order to win back the 60% of Latinos who voted for him in 2008, but who no longer trust him or approve of his reactionary policies. Last week, in a cynical political stunt that was clearly aimed at winning votes, Obama directed the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to stop the deportation of immigrants under the age of 30 who came to the U.S. before age 16 “and who do not present a risk to national security or public safety, and meet several key criteria will be considered for relief from removal from the country or from entering into removal proceedings.”

Obama’s policy-reversal was intended to throw his liberal constituents a bone while putting the Republicans on the defensive on an issue that deeply divides their rank and file. (56 percent of likely Republican voters oppose the decision, although the party desperately needs the Hispanic vote to carry the 2012 elections.) Without explaining how the new policy fits with 3 and a half years of police state repression and arbitrary imprisonment, Obama breezily opined that he changed the policy because, “It’s the right thing to do,” creating the illusion that the decision was based on deeply-held convictions rather than political opportunism.

To many, Obama’s performance was reminiscent of an earlier volte-face on the issue of marriage equality. Again, Obama claimed to have had a “road to Damascus” moment where he suddenly saw the light and realised that he had been wrong not to defend gay marriage. The Roosevelt Institutes’s Matt Stoller provides a little background on this point. Here’s a clip from a recent post at naked capitalism:

“Prior to his announced support for gay marriage, Obama backtracked on an executive order banning discrimination among government contractors. He promised to sign the order, and then didn’t. Gay billionaire donors were outraged, and began withholding money from his campaign. And since Obama needed their money to make up for the general lack of excitement for his reelection on both Wall Street and among his small dollar donors, he acted. He tepidly announced personal support for gay marriage, with no corresponding legal or political support. This isn’t a small deal; the President carries moral weight. But it happened because he needed the money.”

Journalist Joseph Kishore over at WSWS draws the same conclusion as Stoller, that is, that Obama’s change of heart had more to do with money than principle. Take a look at this:

“There was also an element of crass financial calculations in the decision to make the statement.  On Wednesday, Obama sent out a message to supporters highlighting his new position on gay marriage and requesting donations. According to the Washington Post, the campaign received a “massive surge of contributions” in response.

On Thursday evening, Obama was in Hollywood for a fundraiser at the home of actor George Clooney, expecting to net the campaign a record-setting $15 million in a single day.

The Associated Press commented, “Hollywood is home to some of the most high-profile backers of gay marriage, and the 150 donors who are paying $40,000 to attend Clooney’s dinner Thursday night will no doubt feel newly invigorated by Obama’s watershed announcement the day before.” The AP added that over the course of a number of fundraisers in the next several days, gay marriage will be the dominant issue, “culminating in yet another fundraiser Monday in New York sponsored by gay and Latino Obama supporters.”

Obama’s sudden change-of-heart turned out to be quite timely, otherwise he might not have raked in that big pile of Hollywood cash. But, then, it’s just more of the same from Obama, the Pharisee-in-chief. One can only wonder if his support for gay marriage and immigration reform will suddenly vanish the minute the last ballot is counted in November as happened with “card check” and other commitments to loyal constituents.

Obama’s new presidential directive does not carry the weight of the law and can be repealed at any time. In fact, it could just be a trick to get undocumented immigrants to register (as they must) with DHS, thus, making it easier for ICE to round them up whenever they see fit. It’s a bogus arrangement that provides no path to citizenship
and no guarantee that they won’t be hassled or incarcerated in the future. And this is precisely what Obama wants, a program that appears to change the policy, when in fact the policy remains  the same. (Expect the same on the gay marriage issue. Obama will support marriage equality until he doesn’t, and that will be the end of it.)

The Obama team scoffs at the idea that the president would promise to prevent deportations for mere political gain, but the facts suggest otherwise. Take a look at this excerpt from an article in the New Yorker a few days ago:

“The White House is so convinced of the centrality of Hispanics to the current election and its aftermath that (White House advisor David) Plouffe told me he has been preparing for months for an onslaught of advertisements from a pro-Romney group attacking Obama from the left on immigration, arguing that Obama’s deportation and border-security policies have been too Draconian.”

That’s right; the White House is worried that Latino voters think Obama’s immigration policy (dragnets, incarceration and deportation) is more punitive and unjust than the GOPs. And it has been. Obama’s been rolling up record numbers of  hard working men, women and children and throwing them into federal gulags where they are separated from their family members, abused and oftentimes raped. (check–“How Much Sexual Abuse Gets “Lost in Detention?”, PBS Frontline or “New Prison Rape Rules Don’t yet cover Immigrant Detention sites”, PBS Frontline) The bottom line: There’s no legal protection for these people at all. Once they’re arrested, they’re dispatched to federal black sites where anything goes. Obama knows this, and yet, the same policy persists with his blessing.

This is from Democracy Now:

“A new report looks at how thousands of U.S.-born children are being sent to foster care when their non-U.S. citizen parents are detained or deported. The Applied Research Center investigation, “Shattered Families: The Perilous Intersection of Immigration Enforcement and the Child Welfare System,” finds there are at least 5,100 children currently living in foster care, who are prevented from uniting with their detained or deported parents. If nothing changes, researchers found some 15,000 more children may end up in foster care in the next five years.”

Nice, eh? Not exactly what you’d expect from President Hopie-Feelie, is it? Keep in mind, that this report –which shows that 46,000 parents have been forcibly separated from their children for coming to the States to look for a goddamn job–was released in 2011. So, the fact that children were suffering because of his policy did not cause him to rethink the policy at all. What changed his mind was the election, and the prospect that Mitt Romney might net a bigger percentage of the Latino vote. That’s what prompted this stunning reversal.

It was inevitable that Obama would try to reconnect with his base after 3 years of disappointments and broken promises, but does he really think he can garner their support with these pathetic attempts to look “progressive”?

MIKE WHITNEY lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at fergiewhitney@msn.com.